Jack Wills: How long have you been working for The Yacht Week now?
Ben Jones: I have been at TYW since I left Jack at the end of 2011, so just under 5 years. I started working at Jack in 2005 when I started university in the Oxford store, which had just opened. At some point I started helping [co-founder] Rob Shaw out with scouting models for the early campaign shoots. Then in 2010, as I was nearing end of university, they announced America – I applied for a job in Nantucket store, and started working there in the summer of 2010. I joined the US marketing team where I was in charge of university marketing for the US. I worked there for 2 years before I moved to Boston, then left Jack and started at The Yacht Week shortly after. I was at Jack for 7 years in total!
JW: What’s your fondest memory?
BJ: Living in Nantucket. It’s a beautiful island. Jack took care of us well – got us a nice house, good location, we met all of the locals. They gave us a car! We felt like locals. The store was great… I got to do cool marketing activations – parties, events on the beaches. Martha’s Vineyard was next door too so we had a lot of friendly competitions with that island which was fun. That whole time was incredible – I still look back at it as one of the best times of my life.
JW: How did you start working for TYW?
BJ: I heard about TYW though various social channels and my boss at the time, Oli, Head of Marketing at JW, had taken part in TYW and ended up speaking to the founder, William Wenkel. William needed a flat in London and Oli ended up renting him his for about 6 years.
Then I came back to UK and saw a job for a marketing position at Yacht Week. I liked the look of it; like Jack Wills it is a lifestyle brand, all about creating great experiences. At the time it was a very small company – only around 5 of us, mainly Swedes. I worked up from marketing assistant to the Head of Marketing. Now I’m responsible for The Yacht Week product overall. Over the years we’ve had several dealings with Jack Wills, most recently an activation on Nantucket, so the relationship has continued.
JW: Your experiences at Jack must come in handy quite regularly then?
BJ: Yes for sure, especially with marketing at Jack. It’s about thinking outside of the box and reaching out to people. Both are different to marketing elsewhere – yes, a slightly different age group at TYW, but both audiences are super attached to social media, they’re mobile-first, and into trends. While I was at Jack I got to see some beautiful locations where a lot of the demographic for TYW hung out – on Nantucket and at Boston University. Having been in the university marketing role at Jack I got an insight into that world and made valuable contacts with post grads as well as the Harvard Business School. The people I met at Jack were really interesting and to this day I stay in touch with them. Having only left the company 5 years ago and still staying close to people shows the strength of the relationships.
JW: What are your thoughts on ‘entrepreneurialism’?
BJ: Marketing at Jack in the US was about finding creative solutions to reach people. So similarly, entrepreneurialism is about using creativity to make new business. There’s entrepreneurialism in the day-to day things you do. Today, London is clearly the start-up capital. There are so many angel investors and they like to help entrepreneurs. Due to rise of the tech industries, service industries, and experience industries it’s allowed people who have ideas go forth and make them a reality. There’s a lot more support now to help grow an idea than there has ever been in the past.
TYW for example, started in 2006. Fast-forward 2 years to 2008 and you had the financial crash. The older generation was most affected by the crash, leaving the next generation, ‘the millennials’, least affected. This, coupled with this emergence of social media and Facebook in particular, meant there was a whole new way to experience a holiday with friends, and a whole new way to reach them – channels like Facebook became the perfect way to communicate TYW’s concept.
JW: We speak a lot about the future of social media; how do you think innovations within the industry will affect TYW?
BJ: I think the key to sustainable growth is innovation. Keep innovating, getting new experiences, staying ahead of the game. How that innovation takes place is really dependent on the times you are living in. It’s no longer good enough to just rent a yacht and suggest places to go. We have done that. We try to focus on everything that creates an emotional connection by putting in the detail at every level of the experience.
Another thing that is key, and how we have changed in the last year, is the idea of a holistic experience. It’s not just a party thing; it’s now about emotional well-being, and the enjoyment of wider cultural and historical aspects, which are all important when making a decision of where one wants to go on holiday. We look at how can we educate guests to minimise their environmental impact, how to engage them in the local culture, history, food, wine, plus wellbeing activities such as yoga classes and guest speakers. And then there is the party element – everyone loves a party – so it is about how can we get 500 people who don’t know each other together at beautiful venues, with great music?
Impact on the environment is also important – so is the possibility of government laws that may affect businesses. We need to be ready for whatever legislation or policy that may come. Equally, we are also responsible to do things – for example; we are trying to push policy change in Croatia to introduce a recycling scheme. If we can prove how our guests can create X tons of recycling that would otherwise go to a landfill, then they might start listening. I think Croatia is slowly trying to join the EU and becoming more aware of these issues.